Monday, 24 September 2007

Wet, cold and feeling stronger!

I don't think I can take anymore about the weather at home, it ain't got a patch on what I'm facing here now. In the last few days I've had snow laying around me, slept at 9,500ft in heaving rain, rode for hours in thunderstorms and smiled for most the way. I do need to get a move on, its getting close to risking being snowed in, which would mean swapping the bike for a skidoo; now there's an idea! Actually the thought of coming back into some of these areas for a quick trip in the snow is very tempting. I've always fancied a skidoo tour, not for too long though, a week would be enough. Meanwhile, I'd rather not use my bike as a means of combating snowy conditions.

Since leaving Yellowstone I've centred my route along highway 191, though enjoyed a number of side excursions. Between Daniel and Pinedale I took county route 352 up to Green River Lake, a return trip as it was a dead end. From Pinedale I went to Elkheart Park in the Bridger Wilderness Area, just to camp for the night, which was another return trip. And yesterday I took county route 353, through Big Sandy, out to the Continental Divide and onto route 28, about 20 miles Northeast of Farson. So I had to ride back to the 191 in torrential rain, very good timing though.

The first two pictures are of mountains I passed by, first from Yellowstone and the second from Dell fork Ranch, home of Barbara and Paul Elwin (could be Elwood), my kind hosts for a night of rest and bodily cleansing. Their ranch was amazing, they still do their haymaking by horse and the proximity and admiration of nature is wonderful. I stayed a night after being invited, it was absolute bliss. Woke early in the morning to horses grazing around the cabin, Pronghorn deer grazing up the track, with Harris's hawk and Bald Eagle flying past. All this with the magnificent backdrop of the wind river mountain range, talk about uplifting, WOW!

They advised me to go see the Elkheart Park, standing at about 9,500ft, "a spiritual experience," they said, as if their own ranch wasn't! But hey, the snow topped mountains were viewed from this park, after a night of heavy rain at my altitude, no wonder it was a bit nippy the next morning. As far as I recall this is the highest I've ever camped out at, higher than Turkey by at least 2,000ft. It was almost a shame to ride away and leave it all behind! Knowing there was much more to come made it bearable though, what I didn't know at the time was the more to come was thunder storms and very wet rides for a number of days.

Does wet and cold equal misery and gloom? Well bugger me, no it doesn't have to! OK, it would be nice to have glorious sunshine; and free fuel, as much beer as I wanted and cord en bleu cooking. However, the knack of life is to make what you can of what you've got, which is what I've been managing. The thought that came into my head whilst riding was, "I ain't running, I ain't scared, throw at me what you want." So, at present, I'm starting to feel pretty strong, at least bloody stubborn. For sure I've had torrents of tears streaming down my face, if I hadn't I'd be worried. But in my heart I hold more love for Cai than I could have imagined, and it isn't going away. Unlike this bloody Chipmunk, who wouldn't keep still!

Riding tracks and trails has been a delight, and a fright; generally both at the same time. To Green River Lake I had the most horrid washboard effect I've experienced so far, just when I thought I'd got it sorted. No problem at first, open the throttle and coast over it all; if you go fast enough it smooths out. So I got pretty confident and felt happy at 50+ mph; until I hit deeper, wider corrugations with deep, loose gravel strewn over it. It felt like I was on a bucking bronco set to vibrator mode, not nice at all. It was easier on the way back though, especially as I was expecting it.

The route through Big Sandy was aptly named, it was sandy mud for many miles. Heading straight for the mountains, over enormous open plains at very high altitude; pure joy, well almost. Being compacted earth was lovely to see after riding over so much gravel, and good speeds were kept. Having learnt my lesson I did take a more cautious approach to cornering, but even that got more confident and felt better leaning the bike over and accelerating through. Not quite the same when the earth isn't so compact and turns to mud! Again, I took it easy at first, while I got used to it. By the end, when seeing a muddy patch in front I didn't slow down at all, just gave it a handful. WRONG, the bike snaked horribly, scared the life out of me, and had me laughing manically. Scary, but really good fun! Although it will take me a bit longer before being quite so foolhardy with the throttle.

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